SAN JOSE, Calif. – There’s no doubt Dallas goalie Marty Turco is an elite puck-stopper. The last time he faced the San Jose Sharks, he kept it out of his net through four historic playoff overtimes.
Yet Turco sometimes looks like the last pick in a rec-league game when he tries to handle that puck, and his latest stick blunder handed a win to the streaking Sharks.
Patrick Marleau scored with 28.3 seconds to play when Turco misplayed the puck in front of his net, keeping San Jose unbeaten in its nine home games this season with a 2-1 victory over the Stars on Saturday night.
Dan Boyle also scored and backup goalie Brian Boucher made 23 saves to stay perfect as a starter with San Jose, but the NHL-leading Sharks’ seventh consecutive victory came down to a horrendous mistake by Turco, whose puck-handling deficiencies have dogged him for years.
Turco easily stopped defenceman Brad Lukowich’s long dump-in shot for his 31st save, but the goalie then inexplicably attempted to backhand the puck up the middle of the ice. He hit Marleau on the skate, and the San Jose captain swatted it past the diving goalie for his seventh goal.
“It came at the right time, I guess,” Marleau said. “He was out playing the puck a lot tonight, making some pretty good plays, and we were just on the fortunate end of the miscue.”
Turco made no excuses afterward, grimly accepting blame for the loss while praising his teammates’ impressive effort through the first 59 1/2 minutes.
“I really didn’t know what I was thinking,” said Turco, who lost to the Sharks in regulation for just the eighth time in 34 meetings. “On my backhand, that particular time of the game, I shouldn’t be thinking high over the middle. … I guess that’s why I got the second star.”
Loui Eriksson scored Dallas’ tying goal early in the third period of the Pacific Division clubs’ first meeting since their second-round playoff series last spring. Dallas beat the division champion Sharks in six games, winning the epic clincher in a series that led to coach Ron Wilson’s firing and Todd McLellan’s arrival in San Jose.
The Sharks improved to an NHL-best 13-2 with this win, opening up a seven-point lead on Anaheim and a 14-point advantage on the Stars, who dropped to 5-7-2 after failing to post their first back-to-back wins.
Boucher excelled again in a rare start in place of Evgeni Nabokov, who sat out with a lower-body injury after getting hurt while stretching to make the final stop in San Jose’s 5-4 shootout win over St. Louis on Thursday night. Right wing Jonathan Cheechoo also sat out with an undisclosed injury.
Boucher hadn’t allowed a goal this season before Eriksson’s score, but he improved to 6-0 as a starter since signing with the Sharks in late February. Dallas couldn’t generate much offence in its fourth stop on a five-game trip, but Turco kept the Stars in it until late.
“We’ve got no regrets, and Marty played a heck of a game, made some big saves and some critical ones,” Dallas captain Brenden Morrow said. “They’re an elite team, and we’re a team that’s trying to find themselves. We played pretty solid and gave ourselves a chance.”
This rivalry has been bad-tempered for years, to the point where San Jose fans boo the word “star” when it’s sung in the national anthem. Those ill feelings seemed amplified in their first meeting this season, with Joe Thornton particularly irritated by Dallas’ stable of agitators, including Steve Ott, Mike Ribeiro and newcomer Sean Avery.
Boyle got San Jose’s first goal in the opening period on two sharp setup passes from Marleau and Thornton, who crisscrossed the puck through Dallas’ defence before Thornton fed Boyle for his third goal of the season.
After a scoreless second period, Eriksson evened it up with 16:19 to play by setting up Ott for a slapshot and then tapping home the rebound off the rear boards.
Notes: Sharks C Marcel Goc returned to the lineup after missing five games with an undisclosed injury. Goc has been bothered by back problems since training camp. … RW Brad Staubitz made his third appearance for San Jose in Cheechoo’s place. He was recalled from Worcester on Friday along with G Thomas Greiss. … Stars D Sergei Zubov played his second straight game after missing their first 12 while recovering from hip surgery.